The revelation about the bounty system that the New Orleans Saints had for hits that knocked opposing players out games brings up a point about transparency in regulation. People seem very upset about what the Saints did, but ask yourself this. What’s the difference between a rule that says you get, say, $1,000 for injuring somebody and a more general policy that says “We love those kinds of hits, and we take that into account when we make contract decisions or hand out special bonuses to players.”
The answer is that the only difference is that one is clear and the other isn’t. That’s important though. There are many contexts in which we show respect for certain values by not rubbing your nose in the fact that an exception is being made. At least that’s the lesson that I take the Court’s affirmative action cases in Grutter and Ricci. Assigning numbers or slots to people based on race is offensive, but saying that race is a factor in a holistic decision is not.
Fans understand that football is violent and that players are sometimes trying to hurt somebody. That just don’t want to know that too clearly. Because that would be wrong.